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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Are the first 20 wines on the list of the top 100 the best 20? The scores of wines lower on the list are higher than some of the wines under the top 20.

—Nellie B., Cape Town, South Africa

Dear Nellie,

No. When we create our Top 100 wines each year, we look at a variety of factors, not just a wine’s score. Otherwise, the list would just be a rundown of the wines that got 100, 99 or 98 points, and anyone could do that on their own. We look at a combination of score, price, availability and the elusive “X-factor” of excitement. We’re trying to give you the list of wines we think are most exciting of what we’ve tasted this year.

The senior editors put a lot of thought into the X-factor to come up with the list. They make their case for what they think should be included and why—after all, each taster may have hundreds of wines that scored 90 to 100 points in blind tastings throughout the year. But which ones really stood out? Which tell the story of the momentum in their region, or offer terrific availability or value among their peers? Is there a story about a brand that turned around, or a newcomer that should be on everyone’s radar screen? Is there a vintner who made dozens of terrific wines, and this one wine represents what they’re capable of? Is there a story about a new hot spot, historic vineyard, trending varietal or notable vintage? A producer that’s been quietly setting the pace among its peers, or a new pioneer?

Imagine taking in all of this information, and trying to give a complete picture of more than 20,000 wines that we reviewed in blind tasting this year, and trying to distill it down to only 100 wines. The wines are ranked in order of all of these factors weighed together, and we hope the list gives you a reason to explore some more terrific bottlings. If you want to know the thought process behind a wine’s appearance on the list, I really encourage you to take a look at the profiles we’ve written on each wine. That should make you thirsty.

—Dr. Vinny

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